Image for post
Image for post

It’s December 1, 2020. Yesterday the headlines reminded us that exactly one year ago the first cases of COVID were reality. Science understood what this virus could do, but the versions of us who lived through last December had no idea.

Since then, we’ve seen so much we wish we could unsee. With 30 days between us and the end of the year, there will be a call to action that encourages us to do just that — to look ahead to 2021 as the year that will erase all 2020 brought with it.

I hope you choose not to think of 2020 as a waste of a year. I hope 2020 doesn’t become a lost year in your memory because it’s been anything but that. …


Image for post
Image for post

When I started writing about grief and my losses, I didn’t foresee how often I would get asked the question, “how does this change your relationship to death?”.

In conversation, death was centered from the beginning. My mom’s death spoken of more than her life. The death of who I had been was seemingly pushed aside to make room for who the world needed me to be immediately after.

At the start of my time with grief, the question wasn’t explicit, instead at 10 years old, I was asked,

“How has your mom’s death impacted you this year?”

I’m a boat in the middle of waves that take me wherever they please. That’s what I wish I would have had the confidence to say, but I was 10 years old, so of course I didn’t. …


Image for post
Image for post

I know. I know that in the isolated minutes of any given day it not only feels like you’re alone but also like you’re drowning with no one there to throw you a life raft. I know that the holidays feel different, taste different, kind of like betrayal but most definitely like newness if newness had a feel or taste.

A season that had always felt familiar in a comforting way may now feel foreign in a personally hurtful way. Each day maybe feels like an uphill battle, but at the very least most definitely like a battle.

I’m in the middle of my 18th holiday season without my mom. I know nothing about how I will cope with this specific season except for this — I’m not alone. On days when I feel the most “in my feels” about loss, life, and how everything is different, I turn to the internet where across multiple sites and resources, I can find others who get what it’s like to lose a person and then have to live through the “big days” without them. …


Image for post
Image for post

Every year I approach the holiday season with trepidation. I have this feeling that settles in like I have been here before and have never been here at all. Mostly because each holiday season is different. Yearly my mental health toolkit acquires more tools on how I can cope with the month of December, but it’s any one’s guess if the old tools will work.

The one hack that has never failed me during the winter holidays, death anniversaries, or other hard grief day is this — make plans you can break.

The unpredictability of how we’re going to be feeling on a certain day is a fact. If you’re like me, on hard days when you’ve committed to plans you may historically push through with them because you feel guilty or indebted to someone else to do so. But, as I’ve learned through trial and error, forcing yourself to be somewhere you don’t want to be or to partake in an event you don’t want to partake in, especially during a hard-for-you day is a recipe for disaster. …


Image for post
Image for post

My stomach starts hurting on that first week in January. The closer I get to January 10th, the day of my mom’s death, the more my mind starts meeting my body. I’m suddenly in 2003 again. I’m suddenly reliving life as a 10-year-old again. I’m suddenly doing it while also being 14, 21, or this upcoming year, 28.

On December 17th, President-Elect Joe Biden’s team shared that he would have no public events on his schedule on December 18th — the 48th death anniversary of his wife Neilia and his daughter Naomi.

I could understand why. No matter the expectation from those who haven’t lost someone that “you should be over it by now,” time serves a different purpose. It doesn’t add distance from the pain. It doesn’t add space between you and the day. It brings you closer. It offers opportunity to grieve in an intentional way that most years we don’t make time for otherwise, not because grief isn’t there, but because keeping up with life is hard enough. …


Image for post
Image for post

I added a Sara Lee pound cake to our Amazon Fresh order this week. The craving I had was less for cake and more for a connection to my grandma.

The versions of her I got to know have been on my mind a lot these last few weeks. The matriarch who believed she knew better. The octogenarian who struggled with her identity shifting. Once a woman who at 82 cooked three meals a day for every member of her family in the blink of an eye she became an 84-year-old who needed help to use a commode.

I see her in me. I pinpoint my predilection for the dramatic, for the funny, for the saucy to her quick wit and sharp tongue. I chart back my own co-dependent tendencies, the ones I work through in therapy, to her. Our hands and paths intertwined often, old veins and younger skin. I believe in the mystical and so by often I mean now and still. …


Image for post
Image for post

I can tell you when the seed of “young” and “dying” being synonymous was planted. I can tell you when I finally (recently) ripped the roots out of the ground and turned it to mulch. I can’t tell you though how the tree got so tall in the first place or more consequently how I managed to live to 28 years old without noticing its existence.

I think it has a lot to do with grief, some to do with denial, and nothing to do with birthdays in and of themselves.

To me every birthday, anyone’s birthday but especially mine, has always been a moment and a celebration. It’s a day worth honoring and inviting in more joy than displeasure, more cake and less thought of calories or the particles that make it up. And so in some ways, actually, maybe that’s exactly how I missed noticing that I thought I would die young. I looked at the big picture and I rarely noticed the fragments and anxieties my years were built on. …


Image for post
Image for post
Instagram Vivian Nunez — Artwork: Clarice Cho

The first time I noticed that “my holidays” were different from “the holidays” or “their holidays” was May 2003. It was my first Mother’s Day without my mom. In class, we were given the assignment to create Mother’s Day cards to give our moms that weekend. My mom’s death was fresh, she’d been gone 4 months at that point, and saying, “Hey, I don’t think I can do that,” didn’t fit into my 10-year-old lexicon, so I did it.

I used construction paper to create a Mother’s Day card for a mom I still wasn’t used to referencing in the past tense. …


Image for post
Image for post

I’ve spent 17 years with grief making the holidays harder. I didn’t have a list of books to turn to when I was 10 years old and lost my mom. The truth is that as a child in a Latinx family, I barely had any acknowledgement of my grief. I felt so lonely and out of sorts as a kid that later when I turned 21 years old and lost my second mom, my grandmother, I decided to immerse myself into learning more about grief and also creating content around it.

The below list of reads is one I wish I had during my first holidays after someone died. It includes short reads that can keep attention even when you’re utterly distracted by your grief. It includes novels that will make you say “YES THAT’S ME” and also “THANK THE UNIVERSE FOR NOT FEELING ALONE” at the same time. …


Image for post
Image for post

My memories have been more vivid lately. Breaking through the haze of survival are some of my earliest vignettes of happiness, but also of shame. Over dinner one night with my boyfriend, I picked up a french fry and plopped down a memory.

“You know, when I was in elementary school I was so embarrassed because I always confused numbers,” I chewed on the thought and the fry.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

The way some need a breath to tell time when looking at a clock, I had to give myself a moment when someone says more than double digits. …

About

Vivian Nunez

I write about grief and mental health. Founder @2DamnYoung. http://toodamnyoung.com/ https://www.instagram.com/vivnunez/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store